Wall Street Responds To Bernanke Press Conference

Melissa Block speaks with floor trader Ted Weisberg, president of Seaport Securities, about Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke's press conference Wednesday — and Wall Street reactions to it.

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MELISSA BLOCK, Host:

For insight into financial news, we often turn to Wall Street broker Ted Weisberg. He is president of Seaport Securities. And we wanted to get his impression of today of what Chairman Bernanke said at that news conference.

Ted Weisberg, welcome back to the program.

TED WEISBERG: Well, thank you.

BLOCK: And we all know that one verbal flip from a Fed chairman can send markets into a tizzy. You were watching today, what do you think? How did he do?

WEISBERG: Well, did just fine. I don't think there were absolutely any surprises, no curveballs. I think the conference was completely transparent, which I think it was intended to do. But I really don't think anybody expected to hear any answers from the Fed chairman other than, you know, what they got, which was basically stay the course and there's no quick fix.

BLOCK: And bravo to you, Ted, who are not using the cliche that the market does not like surprises in that answer.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

BLOCK: We did hear Chairman Bernanke in the news conference today saying he's very confident in the strength and dynamism of the U.S. economy in the long-run. Do you agree with that assessment?

WEISBERG: Well, I think so. I think, you know, every day we get up and the glass needs to be half-full. If it's not half-full then obviously we have other issues. And I think that was clearly the message that he left everybody with. I refer to it as the lack-of-real message, you know, one-more-for-the-Gipper kind of thing.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

WEISBERG: But I think it was - I think it needed to be said. You know, the issue of course for the economy and for the Fed chairman is one of time. And unfortunately most of us don't have a lot of patience and we want quick fixes for very real reasons. Especially if you're not working and need a job, obviously you're going to interpret what was said today a little differently than if you are working and don't need a job.

But it's a time issue and I think he got that message out pretty good; that they're going to stay the course, things are working ever so slowly but working in a positive fashion. And he thinks at the end of the day that his policies will in fact have very positive results for the U.S. economy.

BLOCK: Yeah. Chairman Bernanke was asked a few different ways about higher gas prices, higher food prices. Did you think he had much to add on that in terms of what the Fed could do about that?

WEISBERG: Well, I'm not sure. Those are two great questions, because clearly that's where the rubber meets the road for most of us; it's either at the gas pump or in the grocery store. And though we know that when the Fed looks at core inflation they conveniently are allowed to leave out energy prices and food prices, and of course that's what impacts most Americans on a daily basis. And clearly there is inflation at the gas pump and there is inflation in the grocery store.

And unfortunately, I think the current Fed policies are to a certain degree stimulating those increases in prices. And unfortunately, I guess, you just can't have it both ways. And so he did say that he thinks that what we see at the gas pump will subside going forward. And I assume that also means that the price increases that we've seen in the grocery store will also begin to abate and hopefully go the other way. But of course that remains to be seen.

BLOCK: Yeah. I noticed he used some nautical terminology talking about inflation. He said: If it becomes unmoored, was the word he chose, it would require Fed action. For now, he said inflation expectations are well anchored.

WEISBERG: Right, unmoored. Yes, a nautical term; something I know well.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

WEISBERG: Set loose, afoot, right?

I think clearly - I think that was in deference to the issues at the gas pump and in the grocery store, which every American feels on a daily basis in one form or another. And this is clearly going to be a problem for him going forward, because if he the commodities and the energy sectors don't cooperate for whatever reasons - and a lot of what's driving those prices are not in his control - then clearly they are going to have to shift gears and do something to help rein that in.

WEISBERG: OK, Ted. Good to talk to you again. Thanks so much.

That's Ted Weisberg, president of Seaport Securities in New York, talking with us about today's rare news conference with Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke.

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